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Victim's mother faces OC serial murder suspects in court

A mother came to a Santa Ana courtroom to face the two men suspected of raping and killing her daughter and three others.
April 15, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A mother came to a Santa Ana courtroom to face the two men suspected of raping and killing her daughter and three other women in Orange County.

"I feel pity for them, a lot of hate," said Jodi Pier-Estepp, mother of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp.

The two defendants, Francisco "Franc" Cano and Steven Dean Gordon, made a very brief appearance in the courtroom Tuesday, as the judge appointed two public defenders to the case. Their arraignment was postponed to May 19.

Gordon, 45, and Cano, 27, were arrested last week for allegedly raping and killing four women in Orange County.

Police were investigating the mysterious disappearance of three women in Santa Ana between Grand Avenue and the 55 Freeway last October. Kianna Jackson, 20, Josephine Vargas, 34, and Martha Anaya, 28, all disappeared within a month of each other in 2013. Their bodies have not been found.

"It's a hurdle when you don't have a body. You don't have a cause of death. You don't have the opportunity to gather physical evidence from the body that you might gather," said Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin. "But it's just a hurdle. It doesn't mean we're not going to be able to prove the case in court."

The break in the case came when the body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was discovered on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash recycling center in the 1000 block of N. Blue Gum Street on March 14.

All four women had been known to frequent a rough Santa Ana neighborhood known for street prostitution and drug sales, police said.

Detectives analyzed the women's cellphone records and information from the GPS ankle bracelets worn by the two men. Police have not said how they tied the two suspects to the four women.

Both Gordon and Cano are registered sex offenders and transients in the Anaheim area. Two years ago, they cut off their ankle bracelets and hopped on a bus to Las Vegas, where they stayed for nearly two weeks before being arrested for failing to register as sex offenders.

They were then returned to California. Cano was on parole for a 2008 lewd acts case, while Gordon was on federal probation. Police confirmed on Monday that the crimes happened while the two were wearing their GPS devices.

Police suspect there is at least one other victim.

Outside the courtroom, Estepp's mother said when she saw the two suspects, she felt anger toward authorities who were responsible for monitoring the GPS devices. She wants to know how this could have happened when they were supposedly being monitored.

"It makes me appalled that the state of California had tracking devices on two men ... (and) if they were monitored correctly maybe none of this would have happened," Jodi Pier-Estepp said. "There's no excuse, no reason the state can give me why these two men were able to be around each other long enough to commit murder."

"Unfortunately, GPS monitoring cannot always deter crimes," said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which was monitoring Cano. "They are tools that show us where a monitored offender has been and can place them at the scene of a crime. A monitor has no way to detect whether a crime is being committed."

Cano and Gordon are facing four felony counts each of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of rape. If convicted, the two men could face a minimum sentence of life without parole, or the death penalty. They are being held without bail.


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